Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

The Dark Matter of Work: How marketing teams can improve productivity and deliver meaningful work

By Esther Flammer, Chief Marketing Officer at Wrike 

While businesses and consumers alike grapple with reduced budgets, it’s never been more important to connect with the right audiences and stand out from competitors.

For marketing teams, the pressure to deliver is higher than ever. Global growth slowed from 6% last year to 3.2% in 2022, and it’s expected to dip even further down to 2.7% in 2023. Meanwhile, the pace of work has increased significantly, as businesses have been forced to adapt to unprecedented cultural shifts and economic uncertainty. In other words, reduced spending has been met with higher expectations, and marketing teams must find a way to do more with less.

This has highlighted several productivity challenges that have plagued the industry for decades, including prioritising innovative strategies that get in front of buyers and doing high value, results-driven work that maximises ROI versus getting pulled in too many directions by work that isn’t tracked or measured. 

Recent research from Wrike found that marketing professionals typically waste 16 hours per week on this miscellaneous work. That’s 820 hours – or 103 working days – per year. For marketing teams the total cost of this wasted time is around $59 million, which is significantly higher than other departments. There has to be a better way. 

To survive and thrive in the current period of economic uncertainty, marketing teams need to find a way to maximise their most precious resource – time. Only then can they boost productivity, deliver better results, and produce their most meaningful work.

The Dark Matter of work and why it matters for marketers 

We can only see about 5% of the matter in the universe, according to CERN. The other 95% flies under the visible radar as ‘dark matter’. The same can be said about the work we carry out today. Many of the activities we undertake and the interactions we have are never captured, tracked, or measured against a specific goal. 

This problem is often exacerbated by the very nature of the work marketers carry out each day. The need to constantly move at pace, producing and using reams of data alongside a never-ending list of applications can be challenging. Whether it’s trying to track down notes from the latest creative brainstorm – which took place over Zoom – or missed Slack messages about edits to an ad copy which were shared over email, if a task isn’t managed in one single platform it creates Dark Matter. 

With marketing teams taking on more projects (11 large-scale) per year and dealing with more messages (301) each day, this Dark Matter can have serious consequences, and not just in terms of productivity. Marketing teams are feeling the stress of trying to navigate broken workflows, which lead to misalignment, missed deadlines, duplicate work and stalled projects. The human cost of this disconnect can be enormous and (no surprise) 80% of marketing professionals are experiencing burnout. 

Delivering impactful work 

To eliminate wasted time and tackle feelings of burnout, marketers must work in synchrony. Each team needs to be able to collaborate effectively cross-functionally and cross-departmentally, without silos and within a single source of truth. They also need tools that increase visibility into the work taking place and allow them to automate time consuming, mundane tasks like approval processes. This creates more space for creative thinking and the ability to focus on delivering what matters – brand consistency, customer experience, and maximising ROI.

At the moment, business leaders don’t have visibility into a surprising 59% of work taking place. This is higher than any other business function and it points to an industry-wide problem. And in response to this, 97% of marketing professionals said a single source of truth would reduce stress for them and their colleagues. This is where collaborative work management platforms come into their own. 

By helping to boost visibility across marketing teams and the other departments they work with, these technologies are the key to building better brand consistency, and improving results – whether it’s to do with customer experience or lead generation. Work management platforms ensure that individuals are aware of exactly what they are contributing to a project, meaning fewer mistakes, greater consistency, and a shared knowledge of what others are working on. They help marketing teams keep things on track, leading to a reduction in Dark Matter and overall increase in productivity. This creates an environment in which creative thinking is encouraged from start to finish which will ultimately enable marketers to create more impactful work.  

Against a backdrop of economic pressure, marketing teams cannot afford to fall victim to Dark Matter. In order to be successful, they need to gain greater visibility and better integrate applications. It is only then that they will truly understand the work being done across an organisation and streamline it. By reducing processes, marketers will be free to focus on the meaningful work that inspired them to enter into their roles in the first place.